What Makes America Great

[This short essay first appeared in a slightly different form in Charleston’s Post & Courier.  The Glebe Street Hacks proudly republishes it here with the author’s permission.]  By Paul Flaherty

Paul

Paul Flaherty

I am from an immigrant family.  I was in the 6th or 7th grade (1964?) when I asked Nana, who left Connemara in the 1920s, “Why did you come to America?”

“To eat,” she replied.  America was great then.

America was great when, from April to November 1975, the United States conducted Operation New Life. More than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees were transported, sheltered, fed, and provided medical, dental and sanitary services on Guam, then processed into the continental United States.

One thousand Vietcong/North Vietnamese Army were identified and separated to a POW compound; an additional 1,600 were segregated for return to Vietnam. Standing guard 18 hours a day for seven days really pained my feet.

I remember seeing the SEBES erecting those Strong back tents.  They flew in lumber, cots, blankets, food.  They drilled for portable water.  The used 55gal cans for commodes;  showers were awesome.  They filled 500 gal black fuel bags with H2O solar-heated.  They had to mix that with the cooler water from bags buried in rock salt because the surface bag water was too hot!!  They used garden hoses with nozzles splices along the way.  Fish and rice were main meals.  Unreal operation saving lives.

To date, I know of no instance of terror associated with these 100,000 Vietnamese immigrants. As an infantry lieutenant in the Marine Corps, under direction of our State Department, I was there when “we were great.” Let’s “Make America Great Again.”

View_of_Orote_Point_(Guam)_refugee_camp_c1975

View of the refugee camp at Orote Point, Guam (USA), following the Vietnam War, circa in 1975. [source:  Wikimedia Commons]

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